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Comet 67P cracking under pressure

Spinning space motion could cause neck to snap

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3:00pm, October 18, 2016
67P

CRACKED COMET  Signs of stress building in comet 67P can be seen in this image of part of a fracture snapped by the Rosetta spacecraft.

PASADENA, Calif. — It’s hard being a comet sometimes. Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko is developing stress fractures and might break apart in the next several hundred years.

Comet 67P is famous for its oddball shape. With two lobes joined together at a neck, it vaguely resembles an interplanetary peanut. The Rosetta spacecraft, which ended its 26-month visit to the comet in September (SN Online: 9/29/16), noticed a large crack in the neck in 2014. After the comet made its closest approach to the sun in August 2015, the fissure grew by several hundred meters and new cracks appeared.

The fractures appear to be developing as forces subtly bend the comet to and fro, Stubbe Hviid, a planetary scientist at the German Aerospace Center Institute of Planetary Research in Berlin, reported October 17 in a press conference at a

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